A simple internet search to find out more about “technology” will render a huge number of results. However, what many tax professionals tell us they want to know about, in relation to their practice, is more information about the cloud, as well as the timing associated with bringing on a new technology, process or application.
When, indeed, is the best time to do this, and what is the ramification of new technologies for a firm? To find out, we asked Jeff Wilson II of The WII Group, a cloud-based practice in Clinton, Md. Jeff is an Intuit® ProConnect™ Tax Online customer who was profiled in an article last year. Here is what he had to say on this popular topic.
Intuit ProConnect Team: Why would it be beneficial to an accountant to test new technologies? When is the best time to do this?
Jeff Wilson II: I think it’s not only beneficial to test new technologies, but also mandatory. As software applications become the front line of client interaction, accountants will need to be anticipatory and focus more on client experience as a part of their service. In our firm, we have tested a number of technologies in order to make our processes more effective and efficient. However, when we choose a new technology, our initial evaluation of technology focuses on client experience.
As it relates to timing, I do not recommend testing new technology during busy season due to the high level of activity from recurring and loyal clientele, and the possibility of fracturing solid client relations. I prefer to begin testing new technology on the tail end of busy season and through the off season. This allows us to test in a more comfortable and, for some tax preparers, a less hostile environment.
Intuit ProConnect Team: Did you test out any new technology for 2017?
Jeff Wilson II: We rolled out a new technology this year – and it didn’t go so well. How do we know that? Because clients asked questions and we had to provide instructions. We made a go for software that we thought would be more relatable to millennials and cellphone technology, and it just didn’t go well. Obviously, we made it through tax season, so it wasn’t a disaster. We experimented – and it didn’t work. However, we are brushing ourselves off and saying were going to try again! We are already experimenting with other technologies to increase our clients’ experience and our process. Our goal is to catch the next surge, according Mike Michalowicz, and to do that, we will test new technologies in season to determine client reaction and reviews until we get it right and believe our client experience goals are met.
Intuit ProConnect Team: In your ProConnect Tax Online profile earlier this year, you talked about your move to ProConnect Tax Online and how you are now a web-based firm. Tell me how your practice changed due to moving to a cloud-based practice.
Jeff Wilson II: One of the best things about adopting ProConnect Tax Online is our ability to manage the tax preparation process in the cloud, from start to finish, securely. Our staff of four for tax seamlessly worked our clients through the engagement letter, scanning and intake process. The key focus for our practice is to ensure that our tax software and internal/operation software integrate to make the client experience seamless. Based on our year-end customer satisfaction service survey, we received a 95 percent approval from our customers on our process and software usage!
Intuit ProConnect Team: As to the integration of QuickBooks® Online Accountant (QBOA) and ProConnect Tax Online, can you give an example about how you relied on this integration to solve a problem for a client?
Jeff Wilson II: For our firm, we relied heavily on the QBOA and ProConnect Tax Online integration to process high-value small business tax returns. Our small business tax returns are our highest value clients. Unlike most tools, the QBOA to ProConnect Tax Online integration allowed us to increase the profit margin on most valued clients without sacrificing client services. At the end of tax season, we prefer to avoid putting ourselves under too much additional deadline delivery pressure, so we tell our clients after April 1 that their returns are automatically put on extension. This year, in particular, was difficult; I began a new business endeavor as a farmer. During busy season, I had to take multiple visits to my farm in Florida for clearing and planting. As a result, I was not in my office or available for physical meetings. The integration gave me and my staff the ability to be remote. Our clients were able to provide us documentation without having clients commute to our office in Washington, D.C., where traffic is horrible, or incur postage charges.
Intuit ProConnect Team: Have you been met with any resistance from clients who want to stay out of the cloud?
Jeff Wilson II: In the adoption of new technology, any practitioner should be ready to face the headwinds that come with such a change. While we have faced some resistance with our move to a solely cloud-based firm, we have eased our clients’ resistance by educating them on the benefits of having their documents secured in the cloud, rather than some unregulated file cabinet. In addition, we consistently educate our clients on how our adoption of new technology is meant to enhance their experience of working with us.
Intuit ProConnect Team: What is your advice to some accountants who are on the fence about moving their practice to the cloud?
Jeff Wilson II: I would ask, “What are you waiting for?” If you’re not growing your business, then you’re shrinking. If you’re not adopting efficient and great client experience software, then your client base will eventually shrink. Your future client, whether you like it, prefers technology and demands a smooth technological experience. Obtaining a viable business cloud is not an option, but a must. This is the golden age for startup accounting firms!
Editor’s note: This article was originally published June 16, 2017.